Having worked on several political campaigns, it is my strong opinion that the following strategies should be implemented in the '06 election. These consist of three strategies:
a) On a local level - A strategy employed by a Conservative Canadian politician who won every polling station in his district
b) On a national level - Explaining our reasoning, why our programs and solutions are right; putting the Democrats on offense, exposing their record of cowardice, complacency and ineptitude on security and their disastrous record on economic issues (including their 50 cent/gal gas tax proposal) and exposing their hypocrisy, their politicizing of world events and their lie and smear campaign which targets vulnerable seniors
c) Changing the frame of the debate and catching the opposition off guard by raising "sleeper" issues which no one has advocated, no one expects you to and which will nonetheless attract profound attention from a receptive public. These are the kind of issues that make the public think to themselves "these people are interesting, why didn't I think of that." These include advocacy of seniors' health concerns; advocating alternative, smarter not harsher sentencing (the Dems' worst nightmare is that this becomes part of a GOP campaign); alternative health care legislation (allowing parents not doctors, to make decisions for their kids, another issue that would take the Dems by surprise). These issues show the GOP to be the party of ideas and expose the Dems as malcontents, devoid of any ideas.
Note: The following is a detailed explanation of the above three pronged plan. While I recognize that it's somewhat lengthy, I believe that each idea covered will be beneficial to campaign organizers and strategists.
Bob Mills is a member of Canada's Parliament. He's a Conservative who speaks his mind. Yet he won every single polling station in his district in more than one election. In his book "Vote for Me, I'm from Mars," he lays out an effective method for any candidate to pursue. It's one of the best works of political strategy. The method consists of dividing the district into polling stations (i.e.all houses whose residents vote at the same poll station are grouped together), each one being assigned a number. Then volunteers are put in charge as Captains of their own mini-district and of finding Captains for each mini-district without a volunteer. Each Captain then goes door to door in his allotted area and talks with people about the candidate. Instead of "Hi, I'm from the .... Campaign" it's "Hi, I'm your neighbor. I live down the road on .... Street. I'm volunteering for the ..... Campaign because of the great job .....'s done for the community." After getting to talk with their neighbor they can ask they to spread the word as well.
Now here's how to provide incentive according to Mills (and this is why I call it one of the most effective methods). As we said, each district is now divided into a series of smaller districts, numbered 1 - whatever (let's say 50). After appointing a number of Captains, the candidate hangs up a Campaign Football in his/her office. Then a competition ensues between the Captains of districts 1-3, 4-6, etc. Only one Captain for every three mini-districts will get their name on the Campaign Football (they are made aware of this before they sign up). The winner will be the one whose polling station returned the highest % of votes for the candidate out of the three. True station number 2 may poll only 51% and win while station number 19 polled 61% but lost to station 18, but this is what provides incentive.
As Bob Mills says, it's fairly easy to get station Captains. Just have some volunteers visit areas with no Captain. Have them go door to door speaking with people until they find a supporter and then ask him/her if they can speak with their neighbors and become a "Campaign Captain."
In larger districts and polling stations you may want to divide this strategy by block or even apartment building. You will need to find another method for choosing which of the three Captains wins because voting results won't be available by apartment/block. Maybe consider number of hours spent campaigning door to door in this case.
As a veteran politician whose name escapes me once told a candidates/campaigner's meeting, if there's a sign on someone's door that said "Beware of Dog," you should probably obey that sign and move on. At the very least and aside from all other obvious reasons you want to ensure that a volunteer or a candidate is not nursing a bite for two weeks during the campaign.
On all matters, set the record straight and take the issue back to the Dems. Specifically:
The Dems want to make this election all about Iraq. Fine! But explain that the Iraq war is viewed as crucial by the terrorists and explain over and over again why the war was necessary. We hear all of the reasons for opposition to the war repeated hourly by the media, all of which are myopic and blatantly ignore facts such as UN weapons reports, other intelligence reports, the fact that Saddam didn't need nukes to hurt the US and sarin gas is a WMD (which he had) but we never hear supporters of the war effectively countering this attacks that are so easy to counter. We never hear the truth, even from supporters. An opponent of the war recently wrote that the 500 tons of uranium are a hoax because if they were true war supporters would be hammering it to death. Well, it is true. So why aren't we? People are generally receptive to the truth, so why aren't we repeating it for them often enough for them to hear it?
Now please note. It is clear that someone running a local campaign shouldn't get caught up in the debate. Nor should national leaders do so when talking directly about the midterm elections. This is because not everyone who hears the truth will be willing to accept it. But Generals who go on Sunday morning shows and the President need to be making these points regularly.
Here's some help with countering liberal misconceptions on the issue:
When a liberal strategist says that the President should have concentrated on North Korea or Iran state these facts:
First of all, Iran, North Korea and Iraq were all dangerous but the first two are interested in a long term build up leading to their acquisition of nukes and are not a danger until then (they won't launch little attacks lest the reprisal rob them of their goal). Iraq was run by a madman who had already once tried to off a US President, who met with terrorists, who was a prime sponsor of suicide bombings in the Middle East and who would not wait given an opportunity to launch small attacks on the US that would terrorize its civilians. Look at the kind of terror he was proud to sponsor elsewhere and connect the dots with regard to his plans for America. So unlike Iran and North Korea, in which the problem is a prolonged, step by step build up, giving us time to attempt other methods of dealing with the problem, only Iraq was run by someone who would pose an immediate to the United States.
On top of all that, Iraq was given 12 years to comply with 17 UN resolutions. President Bush himself gave Saddam over a year to comply after first warning that action would be taken. Had we failed to then put our money where was there could be no hope of a diplomatic solution to Iran or North Korea. Our threats would be seen as the same jokes they were when uttered by Clinton.
When war opponents fallaciously state that "we were lied to" or "there were no WMD" (displaying pure ignorance):
The entire world agreed on the intelligence at the time, including the French who came up with most of it. They only differed with regard to whether more inspections should continue before military action were taken - a ludicrous proposal given that inspectors had to give notice to Saddam's government a week in advance of their location. France, Germany and Russia were mostly against the war because each had significant oil rights under Saddam. It was that side that was "only interested in oil". In any case, all agreed that Saddam had WMD. UN weapons reports themselves gave evidence of WMD and contrary to media reports we did uncover mass quantities of sarin gas as well, plenty of standard bombs and chemicals, 500 tons of unenriched uranium (1.8 tons of which were already enriched). Why haven't we heard more of this from conservative leaders? And what we uncovered does not include anything that may have been shipped to Syria or Libya as all intel officers believe to be the case (again - largely because UN weapons reports document many weapons known to be in Saddam's possession in the early 90s, most of which were not destroyed). Just because we didn't find all of the weapons doesn't mean that UN weapons reports, which list all weapons that were in Iraq in the early 90s and which ones were destroyed, were wrong. It doesn't mean that Saddam didn't have access to them until he hid them to protect them and it certainly doesn't mean that we were "lied" to unless one wishes to believe that the French, the Germans, the Russians and the UN were in on the lie.
But why aren't we hearing any of this from GOP leaders?
When opponents of the war bring up the loss of lives:
2,500 soldiers dead is tragic 2,500 times over. But unfortunately there has yet to be a modern war in which such a toll would not have seemed small. If we didn't go to war in WW2 because of the cost of lives, the end toll would have been far worse. Same goes with Iraq. Had we failed to act the consequences would have been foreseeably worse given Saddam's track record as listed above, including sponsored attacks on US soil.
When they do their parrot imitation "Republicans say 'stay the course, stay the course, stay the course'":
So yes, stay the course when not doing so is taken by the enemy to mean capitulation. Stay the course when not doing so only emboldens terrorists (who have repeated said that as far as they are concerned, Iraq is central to the war on terror).
When they talk about the "execution of the war":
Now some others fault the President for not sending in "enough" troops to begin with. I don't. Such an act would have unnecessarily aggravated those who would interpret it as a sign of permanent occupation as opposed to transition. Furthermore, most attacks happened in the form of roadside killings. A larger force cannot stop these easily and chances are that the end result of sending in more troops would have been an equally effective force with possibly an increased death toll due to such roadside attacks (more soldiers = more targets and greater numbers doesn't translate into greater ability to find underground rebels). Removing a terrorist regime and sponsor of terrorism was necessary. But further acts of unnecessary provocation are not.
Now here's another national issue that we failed to answer to even when we were right. Although it seems like it is it may not be too late as people are always receptive to the truth.
I'm talking about Katrina.
For weeks before the storm, as other minor hurricanes were hitting, liberal activists were blaming Bush for the storms because of "global warming," which I guess as far as they were concerned was caused by the election of George W. Bush. They even floated the idea that Bush had ordered the seeding of clouds. And then along came Katrina and gave the lunatics and the normal Democrat strategists a chance to work together in exploiting a natural disaster.
The only possible mistake made by the White House was getting up and "taking the blame." These aren't the Clinton years and the media has no interest in a Presidential apology other than in exploiting it. The best course of action would probably have been to lay out the facts.
Here's the type of speech that would probably have been most effective (I'm writing this because you know that any natural disaster this year will be exploited tenfold):
"The response to this disaster was the fastest of any Federal response to any natural disaster. It was only delayed at the explicit request of the State of Louisiana. Mike Brown and the rest of us favored an immediate federal response but differed to the request of state officials. In light of the firing at helicopters we view the request for delay to have been prudent on their part. I am greatly appalled by the politicizing of this natural disaster by many Democrat leaders. They have offered no solutions and many of them voted against funding the levees that wouldn't have been close to being ready by now in any case because they too viewed them as an ineffective solution. Many of them started blaming this administration for this year's hurricane season long before the tragic advent of Hurricane Katrina. Again, I am appalled by their exploitation of natural disasters and personal tragedy for political purposes. I urge them to work hand in hand with FEMA relief efforts and hope to recognize and honor their roles in so doing in the near future.
The attacks against Mike Brown, who prior to being appointed Director had been the Assistant Director of FEMA for years are also appalling. Director Brown may have been too involved in rescue efforts in one location to pay attention to media reports or to provide the type of interview some reporters wanted, but his steadfast determination at providing hands on assistance speaks for itself. Never before has a Director of FEMA spent as much time and effort working hands on at the location of the disaster. Mike was also the main proponent on quick action and opposed the delay requested by state officials. In view of these facts I again ask Democrats and Republicans to work together on this front, just as President Clinton and other prominent and honorable Democratic leaders are doing."
People are receptive to the truth. We just have to counter the lies and misconceptions put forward by the other side and rehashed by the media ad nauseum. Even if we have to do so ad nauseum. The Dems are waiting to attack hurricane relief efforts this year again and the attacks they launched last year still hold water for many. It's time to turn the farce they perpetrated back on them and we should do so as soon as possible.
Likewise when Dems sanctimoniously bring up the 2000 election. Give it to them. Don't be afraid to tell the truth. "You mean the one in which Democrats tried to throw out military ballots? The one in which Democrats tried to have over 25,000 legitimate votes tossed (Seminole and Martin Counties) on a technicality while their protestors went running around yelling 'count every vote?' The one in which Democrat Supervisors overturned voting standards in place since 1990, changed the standards repeatedly and sued to count votes as being for Gore even when no Presidential candidate was selected based on the voter's choice for Senate or Congress? That election of 2000?"
The same is true of Social Security. Democrats are again airing ads about the GOP wanting to take away Social Security (you think we'd have done it after 6 years if we were going to). Counter that the GOP was the only party to provide prescription drug relief after 8 years of Democrat inaction on the issue. Say that Democrats know full well that President Bush promised not to touch the Social Security structure for seniors or for anyone close to retiring. Say that Democrats know this full well and they are lying and patronizing people with their ads. It's the truth and people will be receptive, There was also a lot of misconception fed by the media about the President's plan which again, didn't change anything for seniors or those close to retiring and only allowed a portion of funds to be invested in safe funds that all economists would confirm are better retirement options than the current system. It has yet to pass due to our failure to combat Democrat misconceptions. I even know some people who thought it meant that they'd lose all they put into the system before. We have call lies for what they are and do so enough times to get the public's attention. Sometimes truth is just as hard to spread as their lies and sitting back and allowing professional liars to define the issues doesn't help.
The same is true of many issues the Democrats have distorted the facts on including stem cell research. In all cases we must counter with plain hard facts.
Sleeper Issues (the kind no one pays attention to until they're raised but are extremely receptive to them once they are):
Do whatever can be done to promote seniors' issues. This will cast the GOP in a good light with all swing voters, not just seniors. I'm not advocating increased spending in any form. There's no reason to alienate the base. We've already allocated money toward these issues. Now we simply need to take advantage of it politically.
Specifically, many seniors who've been sitting on the fence are fed up with the Dem's reactionary liberalism but have fallen for some scare tactics with regard to Social Security or have misconceptions about the prescription drug program. Aside from highlighting Democrat inaction on the prescription drug issue, a must do, we should also look to promote any issues that seniors would be receptive to. These include better services for retired vets or announcing a stipend for geriatric research or for MDs going into Geriatrics. Such stipends and grants are awarded regularly with little fanfare. They've increased substantially in recent years and we may as well get some PR out of it.
A key sleeper that would work very well for the GOP is alternative sentencing. The majority of people recognize that a better option to locking someone up who is non-violent would be to give them hard labor and menial tasks. The non-violent convict could stay at home, thereby sparing the family most of the punishment and the sentence would be far more rehabilitative and in a much shorter time. Locking someone up for 2 years would affect their family, make them useless and surround them with criminals who will only influence them to commit more crime. Giving them hard labor, the kind that would teacher them a lesson, from 6 am - 7 pm with a few needed breaks for 6 months not only makes them more productive but virtually ensures that they won't reoffend. Such a proposal can save many youth headed on a downward spiral. An approach to crime that advocates the death penalty for murderers and labor vs prison for those who are non-violent is not only a far more effective deterrent, far more lucrative for corrections contractors, far more tax effective, fair to families, rehabilitative to convicts and an issue that would have a solid majority of supports, it is also innovative enough to become a coup de grace for the GOP, cementing its reputation as the party of ideas and the party with the best proposals for society. People would wonder why Democrats who supposedly want social change have never advocated this issue and people who bought into the misconceptions that the GOP doesn't care about social responsibility would be proven wrong.
The most effective way for it to work would be as follows. The criteria for being classified as non-violent should be anyway who does not maliciously commit acts of violence. This proposal is also excellent for the corrections industry. Its staff would oversee labor assignments and it could contract out convict labor to cities, mines and factories who need it, something that would be far more lucrative than current corrections contracts.
Another sleeper issue that the GOP can capitalize on and by doing so knock the sails out of the Dems is the right to choose alternative medicine. There have been several cases in which parents of sick teens have been sued for custody by state child care services for choosing alternative medicine, even methods which studies have shown to be effective. Advocating parental rights would be another issue that would garner strong support, present the GOP as taking a lead on social issues while the Democrats are asleep and greatly change the misperception that some have bought into after years of Democrat lies about the GOP not caring about issues that affect society as a whole.
Following these steps; concentrating effectively on local races on a local and even neighbor to neighbor level as outlined above, setting the record straight on national issues while turning the table on the Dems (who rightly deserve to have the tables turned on their spin or misconceptions) and promoting new and innovate solutions that will be well received are a three pronged strategy for success and for making the GOP the party of the future. I'll be more than happy to provide specific advice to individual campaigns beyond this framework.